A trip to London always promises to be an exhausting affair – jostling for position on trains, trying to work out which tube to get, and trying to side-step the seething mass of humanity on the crowded tube, stations and pavements.
Last Sunday afternoon, Jon and I travelled to Kings Cross, where we had booked a couple of nights at the local Travelodge. It seemed the most central spot for what we were planning to do, and actually, it proved to be a really quiet place to stay, considering its locale. The train into Paddington was packed to say the least – I think that a lot of the passengers were students starting back at their relevant universities – there were definitely a lot of under-25s alighting at both Bristol and Bath. Old codgers like Jon and I sat in our sardine-squashed positions, not daring – or even able – to move for most of the journey.
King’s Cross was surprisingly quiet – even for a Sunday evening. On my previous jaunts to visit Shosh at the International Halls in Russell Square - where she was billeted during her first year at uni - it was much busier than last Sunday. You could almost accuse it of being civilised this time round. Once we had deposited our baggage in our hotel room, we went off in search of a refreshing drink, a cigarette (or two) and something to eat. The first two were satisfied at O’Neill’s on the corner of Judd Street (a place I had often thought looked inviting on the above mentioned trips to the Halls) where we could sit outside and partake of the evil weed and drink a cooling draught. However, we did not fancy the food on offer and, after listening to the live band – well duo really – we wandered off in the general direction of Euston Station, hoping to find a little bistro or some such place where we could satisfy our jaded palates. It was not to be, however, and we eventually gave up and trundled back towards our hotel, after stopping off at one of the several mini-supermarkets that were still open, to stock up on some provisions.
We had both forgotten that London prices are not the same as Woolsery prices and were quite stunned when it came to paying for our fairly meagre picnic supper. And as for paying £3.00 for a bottle of beer in the Travelodge – well say no more.
Perhaps you would like to know the reason of our visit down to London? Well, it was not to visit the Queen I can assure you. Shosh was to receive a prize for getting the third highest mark in the end of third year exams at the Royal Vet College so we were off to clap like mad - and whoop and whistle - when she did so. She has worked so hard these last three years and it was a very proud moment to see her receive her award – well done sweetie, you thoroughly deserve it. It seems such a long time ago now that her father and I drove her down to London and left her alone in the big city. It was one of the worst moments of my life (doing the same with her sister wasn’t much better either). To leave your child alone in such a place is awful and goes against all motherly instincts. Some youngsters cannot wait to leave home, and throw themselves into university life with great gusto, but equally, there are those who are, by nature, quiet and shy and although they really want to go on to further study, the prospect of doing so is daunting.
Shosh is one of the latter and she had to spend almost a week by herself, before the start of her course, trying to make friends, getting to know her way around London, and learning to cope for the first time by herself. I still don’t know how she did it, but she took herself out on the buses and trains alone, and coped a hell of a lot better than I know I would have done. She grew up a lot in that first year – she had to – and to see her get her award on Monday was fantastic.
We rounded off the evening with a trip to Covent Garden and enjoyed a particularly nice meal at the Palm Court Brasserie – one of those delightful places that cater for pre-theatre dinners or after-performance suppers.
On Tuesday, Jon and I decided to visit London Zoo – neither of us had been there for many years, and both of us did not have fond memories of the place. We were both pleasantly surprised at its turnaround, though, and came away thinking that it was probably one of the best zoos we had ever visited. Unfortunately, we did not manage to see absolutely everything, as we ran out of time before the zoo closed for the day, so we have made a mental note to return there next time we are down in the London area.
Green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps)
Although we were both physically exhausted from being on our feet all day, neither of us really wanted to go back to the hotel room until the last possible moment. We made our way back to Paddington, and decided to stop off for a coffee at the place where we had first met back in March 2005 – awwww, how romantic - apart from the fact that another couple were sitting in ‘our seat’ – tsk. Jon threatened to oust them unceremoniously, but I managed to persaude him that this course of action would probably not endear us to the establishment's staff, and may even result in us being banned from 'our place' for the rest of our lives!
We were both really tired and nearly fell asleep on the comfy sofa, but, in a flash of renewed, and probably over-enthusiastic, vigour, we decided to take advantage of our cheap day travelcards and visit some of the sights. Well why not? The night was young, even if we were not, so we staggered to our feet, and with creaking limbs made our way to do battle with the underground once more.
We visited Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus, and .... well that was it actually. It had reached the stage where we were swinging one leg in front of the other with the aid of a hand on the back of the thigh, so we decided that it was probably a good idea to make our way back to King’s Cross .... and food. This time, we had oodles of noodles in the local noodle-bar.
Come Wednesday, we were still hobbling, and although it had been a great two days, we were relieved to leave the metropolis and return back to the serenity of Woolsery. This time, the train journeys were trouble-free, as neither the tube nor the mainline trains were busy at that time of day. We both had two seats to ourselves from Paddington, and travelled in relative luxury to Tiverton, where we were met by Graham.
We are both now back on bank and car duties - c'est la vie.